Off The Menu: Bourbon & Branch Is The Swanky Members Club You Need To Join

Off The Menu: Bourbon & Branch Is The Swanky Members Club You Need To Join

A cocktail master spinning his tricks, photo courtesy of Bourbon & Branch

A cocktail master spinning his tricks, photo courtesy of Bourbon & Branch

No sign, no glamour, only just a door — but the insides are the perfect club for any Bay city high roller.

Bourbon & Branch is a glimpse back on the 1920's and the era of Prohibition when the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverage was outlawed. You'll experience the ambiance of that time in an actual speakeasy that operated illegally at this location from 1921 to 1933. From 1921 until 1923 the address was listed in the San Francisco Telephone Directory of the day as "The Ipswitch - A Beverage Parlor".

In 1923, an industrious young man by the name of John J. Russell purchased the business as a "going concern" with it's solid base of customers. With his connections to the most notorious bootleggers from Vancouver, BC., he operated his bar under the guise of "JJ Russell's Cigar Shop" with no cigars in sight. The speakeasy managed to avoid the attention of the governments Prohibition Agents for the remainder of prohibition. History was on JJ Russell's side, as it has been documented that a bar has operated at this Jones Street location since 1867.

Bourbon & Branch never ceases to amaze it's libation experts with their cocktails as well as their selection of spirits.

In case you are wondering why the secrecy, the set of house rules that everyone is expected to follow is to maintain the "Speakeasy" portion of the establishment. The term comes from a patron's manner of ordering alcohol without raising suspicion - a bartender would tell a patron to be quiet and 'speak easy'. So namely, stay quiet, don't be shifty, and also: no cellphones.

A sneaked photo from inside the Berkeley Bourbon & Branch, photo via Eater SF

A sneaked photo from inside the Berkeley Bourbon & Branch, photo via Eater SF

The bourbon selection includes the hand numbered (actually hand numbered, not just made to look like it was hand numbered) Noah's Mill, Buffalo Trace, and Rittenhouse 21 Year. For scotch they have such rare gems as the Monkey Shoulder, Glenmorangie Margaux Finish (one of 1,200 bottles in the U.S.), and the Balvenie 1971. The rums and tequilas, however, are what they consider the very best and include the Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Year and the Tapatio XA (not available in the U.S.). But they only have but one Canadian whiskey but considered the "greatest of all Canadian blends," the Crown XR (only 7,500 cases produced). You get the picture.

// Bourbon & Branch, 501 Jones St, Tenderloin, bourbonandbranch.com


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